A city that has drawn my curiosity for a long time and one that inspires either love or hate.
When Mr. Hubby's work took him there for a few nights, I followed.
My first slow drive down the strip late at night among a throng of cars, bumper to bumper with thousands of people on the sidewalk , holding yard long glasses of what I later came to find out was alcohol, was a heady experience. My first reaction was that the city had all the dynamism of Times Square, NYC.
Needless to say, the things that attract many to this city were of little interest to me and Mr. Hubby. So we concentrated on what does hold much appeal to us - the quality of accommodations, drinks at a fun Night club & an exquisite meal.
All of this we found at The Venetian Hotel.
The Entrance foyer at the Venetian
This luxury & style continues in the design & style of the suites though far more subtle and subdued.
Sleeping area at the luxury suite in the Venezia at the Venetian.
The evening we made 10.00pm dinner reservations at the Bouchon, I could feel a tingle of excitement as I dabbed my perfume behind my ears. I stepped back and looked in the mirror appraising my best evening dress, hoping that it would be the right choice for this restaurant.
Mr. Hubby looked at me and smiled stating "You look great but this is Vegas - do you really want to fit in?" Point taken! So we walked down hand in hand (Mr. Hubby looking very dapper in his suit) down the exquisite hallways in front of the restaurant.
"Stop" I said, "We have to take a pic. We are standing in front of Bouchon...OMG! I know this is not The French Laundry but this is my first Thomas Keller experience!". Out came my little click & shoot and then I despaired, "Oh, I hope that with this camera we'll be able to take pics of the food (my camera inferiority complex was showing)". Mr. Hubby smiled as usually does when I get like this.
We were seated promptly at our table and I remarked that it had very poor lighting and immediately I asked for 3 votives. The maître de looked at me enquiringly and I quickly explained I was a blogger and wanted to take pics. She quickly obliged.
Our server appeared in typical french bistro uniform - the signature white apron spotless over black trousers.
Our waiter explained that the brown folded sheet over the napkin was our menu. The table cloth was also white paper. Very bistro indeed. As I took in our surroundings, I absorbed the classic black & white flooring, the red gladiolus arrangements in tin containers and the fact that the tables were not so closely placed as to create a crush.
As our server began explaining the evenings specials, I noticed that he was distracted like he had someplace else to be and he kept looking behind him as he said his rehearsed piece.
We asked for a few moments and I mentioned to Mr. Hubby my observation and that if he doesn't get his act together I shall have words with him. Mr. Hubby remarked that when I am displeased I am remarkably devoid of discretion.
Our dear foodie friend Saurin from Chicago (we've known each other since diapers) gave me his signature exasperated look of "there she goes again...picky,picky,picky" to which I gve him my signature "stop you in the tracks, glare". Through all this silent communication, Mr. Hubby had his all knowing smile that simply said, "kids".
Anyway, the waiter obviously must have over heard our conversation or had sensed my mood because since then I found him quite attentive and constantly checking in on us. Give the man 2 brownie points !
We were delighted when the first round of crunchy mini baguettes arrived at the table with little containers of homemade butter. The bread is crusty - the kind you can hear. Along side, a bowl of pistachios.
The menu is filled with classic bistro delights right down to Croque Madame and we couldn't wait to get our fork into our appetizers.
Saucisson de Poitrine de Porc
Pork belly sausage with anise, hew chop potato salad, medjool dates & roasted shallot vinaigrette
The sausage was incredible with the flavors from the anise, the purple potatoes and the sweetness from the dates all in perfect harmony. Mr. Hubby declared he could make a meal of this and I heartily agreed!
Soup a l' oignon
French Onion Soup
The consomme was rich, full of depth and flavor & not overly salty. The bread baked atop with cheese was perfectly done but as the cheese got mottled into the soup it turned quite lumpy and chewy. Other than that a wonderful soup.
Soup du Jour
A cream of cauliflower soup.
Incredibly rich with the flavor of real cauliflower (including the leaves), this simple & hearty soup was as best as it could be.
Did I mention how great the bread was? Round two arrives and we were very pleased...smiles....
Gnocchi a la Parisienne
Sauteed gnocchi with a fricassee of garden vegetables
This was such a wild card dish with the most melt-in-your--mouth velvety gnocchi. The big surprise in way of flash fried swiss chard in a wonderful lemony-buttery sauce. Fantastic! Our vegetarian foodie friend Saurin, could not ooh and aah enough over this plate.
Roasted leg of lamb with a cassoulet of pole beans, melted spring onions & au jus
This was my least favorite dish of the evening. The lamb had an incredibly musky flavor, the pole beans somewhat hard and with each bite a grated vegetable that tasted very much like raw potatoes! Mr. Hubby states it is because I am so unforgiving when it comes to lamb. He may be right but I'd pitch mine over this any day. Yeah..I know, don't look now but my snoot is showing ...smiles...
Margret de Canard
Duck breast with swiss chard leaves, white asparagus, rhubarb confit & sauce au poivre
Bring out the orchestra people because this dish was perfection in itself.
Perfectly cooked duck breast with the crispy salty skin was magical. The rhubarb slightly sweet flavored sauce paired wonderfully with the braised asparagus (which looked a lot like penne) as well. Each element held its own but were in balanced harmony as they came together.
Mousse au Chocolat Noir
Dark chocolate mousse
Incredibly rich! The dark chocolate glaze hides a milk chocolate mousse. Dense & rich.
And finally the check arrives, quite cute in the latte glass.
Total damage $ 190
I thoroughly enjoyed the meal and there were aspects I loved and all in all a memorable & delightful experience.
I am glad to have eaten at my first Thomas Keller restaurant.
Next stop - The French Laundry. Any time soon? When pigs fly (a.ka. when Mr Hubby's wallet is stuffed with thick wads of cash!)
As I lay in bed, in a food coma induced stupor, I realized I was ready to see the back of Vegas. I mean as far as I was concerned, we'd ended on a high note.
I may be a a bit of a prude or maybe I am just too old a soul for Vegas but for all its glitz & glamor, I'll take Times Square any day. After all, there must be a reason Frank Sinatra sang New York, New York & not Vegas, Vegas!